© Twentieth Century Fox of Germany GmbH

Zwischen Zwei Leben (The Mountain Between Us)
U.S.A. 2017

Opening 7 Dec 2017

Directed by: Hany Abu-Assad
Writing credits: J. Mills Goodloe, Charles Martin, Chris Weitz
Principal actors: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Beau Bridges, Dermot Mulroney, Linda Sorensen

An essentially two-character film necessitates sterling actors. Join that force with a commendable director and crew to arrive at an attention-grabbing mortal vs. nature film. Based on Charles Martin’s same-titled novel, a surgeon (Elba) and a journalist (Winslet) are grounded, with somewhere important to be. Instead, they defiantly set off in Walter’s (Bridges) twin-engine plane with his dog, convinced of their decision. When events spiral out of control over the High Uintas Wilderness, nature takes over. Pushed to the nth degree, Ben’s skills are tested as winds howl. Finally, Alex makes her argument reciting the “rule of three.” Top-notch, obstinate professionals accustomed to having his/her way, they collide over very different approaches regarding how to continue. But, to survive they must learn to compromise, trust.

Performing brilliantly, Kate Winslet and Idris Elba comfortably wear his/her character’s distinctive personality variances like a second skin. To achieve the realism necessary, director Hany Abu-Asad and crew endured Canada’s natural winter elements and inhospitable filming conditions. Cinematographer Mandy Walker visually accentuates actors’ nuances, and nature’s tones, gradients. Editing was tight, discerning, until Lee Percy, and Abu-Asad, slip during the end sequence. Ramin Djawadi fine-tunes his music to the components. There is impressive attention to detail throughout: Production Design (Patrice Vermette), Art Direction (Cheryl Marion, James Steuart), Sets (Shannon Gottlieb), Costume (Renee Ehrlich Kalfus), and Makeup’s (Natalie Cosco) work add to believability; kudos to those charged with Continuity.

The Mountain Between Us delivers a compelling, transforming story set in spectacular landscapes. It is tragic, yet a life affirming testimony to the force of (human) nature, indomitable determination, trust and heart. (Marinell Haegelin)

Second Opinion

The trailer gives you the movie. Two strangers (Elba, Winslet) charter a rickety little plane, it crashes on a frigid mountaintop, and a struggle to survive ensues. Lovely cinematography ensures that between the breathtaking scenery and the attractive leads there is always plenty to look at. The visual effect is augmented by a good score used sparingly and well. But beyond that, the story is…pretty much what you think it’s going to be. It is therefore imperative that these two people be themselves compelling and the story believable, and this is where the movie thins out.

There is a trope in such stories that the couple dislike or at least take issue with one another at first meeting, the better to enhance the trajectory of their emotions: hatred turning to love is more dramatic than the mere deepening of friendly interest. The personality conflict here is likewise standard: he’s a surgeon, therefore he is logical, removed, bound to convention. He listens to Bach on his phone, of course he does – the choice of soulless brainiacs from Hannibal Lecter on down. She’s a creative type, and as such is emotional, impulsive, and prone to get personal. They behave from the very start as if they have already grown weary of these defining traits in each other. When she says early on, “Have you ever in your life just followed your gut?” one wonders how she presumes to know him well enough to make such a statement. But that’s the problem – they are predictable, to each other and to the audience.

Believability is another issue. Internal errors abound that may not bother every viewer but which indicate a certain laziness on the part of the filmmakers. His broken ribs don’t seem to bother or impede him at all; her open wounds heal quickly in freezing temperatures, weeks without food don’t show on their active labrador retriever. And bear traps have a release button. Just saying.

Will they make it (in both senses)? No spoilers, but no surprises either. With Dermot Mulroney reprising his role as good husband material, and Beau Bridges as the soul of quirky affability. Dress warm. (Mason Jane Milam)

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